What’s Brewing? Is there really chocolate in your beer?
There are some pretty chocolaty tasting porters and stouts out there.
After trying a sample for yourself, even you would be certain there is chocolate in the beer. But is the beer brewed with actual chocolate, or is it something else that is producing that taste?
It might surprise you to learn that what makes a “chocolate” beer taste like chocolate isn’t always chocolate.
It might come as a surprise to learn that not all beers that are described as being chocolate-like are actually brewed with chocolate. Indeed, there are beers that have chocolate in them, however, there are probably even more that don’t but still have the flavor of chocolate. There are a variety of malts that brewers can use to impart the flavor of chocolate in beer. Chocolate malt and black patent malt are just two popular choices used in creating flavors of chocolate.
The varying temperatures that malts are kiln-dried at produces distinctive tastes including bitter chocolate, nutty, burnt and roasted flavors. Kiln drying at the highest temperature can result in the malt producing the flavor of baker’s chocolate, while malt that’s been kiln-dried at a lower temperature may still be dark, but result in a slightly nuttier more roasted taste. Being kiln-dried at high temperatures for a long period of time also gives the malt a dark, almost black appearance. This is the reason chocolate beer, or any beer brewed with dark malts, appear dark brown or black in color.
Some chocolate beers may finish with the bitter flavor of bakers chocolate while others may finish a bit sweeter. A brewer can control the sweetness of the beer by adding crystal or caramel malts to the brew. These malts are kiln-dried at lower temperatures and produce sweeter flavors of caramel and toffee. Additionally, brewers can add lactose sugar, which will provide another layer of sweetness while giving the beer creaminess, too. A perfect chocolate beer, without ever adding chocolate! These malts and more specifically the taste of chocolate can be found in bocks, porters, stouts and brown ales, too. It’s subtler, of course, but see if you can taste it the next time you find one in front of you.
Sometimes brewers will incorporate actual chocolate into the brew along with the dark chocolate, crystal and caramel malts for another layer of chocolate flavor. Cocoa nibs and cocoa powder are two popular choices. Artificial chocolate flavoring is an option too, but typically you’ll only find that in cheaper, more mass-produced beers to help keep costs down. Adding varying amounts of these ingredients and at various stages of the brewing process all play a part in how the beer will taste. The combinations of flavor, appearance and aroma just from the malts alone seem endless.
Happy Valentine’s Day, chocolate lovers! Check out these brews, which are available now.
Foothills Brewing ( Winston-Salem, N.C.)
Sexual Chocolate (9.6% ABV): Sexual Chocolate is an imperial stout with heaps of flavor and aroma as well as an extra-high alcohol content. Sexual Chocolate features a rich chocolate aroma with notes of espresso, blackstrap molasses, dark sweet toffee and dark fruit.
Roundabout Brewery (Pittsburgh)
Without A Stout (6.1% ABV): An uncomplicated stout with lovely notes of chocolate due to loads of dark malt.
Yellow Bridge Brewing Co. (Delmont)
Midnight Split (8% ABV): This Imperial double stout is not exactly a banana split, but it blends flavors of banana, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla and nuts together in a smooth drinking treat.
The Leaning Cask Brewing Co. (Springdale)
Samoyed Stout (8.2% ABV): This is a Russian Imperial stout with flavors of dark chocolate and dry fruit. It’s intensely flavored, bittersweet and complex. (Try the Bourbon Barrel Aged version too).
Rock Bottom Brewery (Homestead)
Double Monday (4.5% ABV): This is a chai spiced latte blonde stout. It’s brewed with lactose chai spices and is served on nitro.
Couch Brewery ( Pittsburgh)
Tiki Torch (7.1% ABV): This is a coconut oatmeal stout that is full of coconut and chocolate flavor. This beer is the feeling you get when you’re sitting on the beach on a beautiful day.
Voodoo Brewery (Homestead)
Cowbell Oatmeal Milk Stout (8.5% ABV): This is a double chocolate oatmeal milk imperial stout. It’s served on nitrogen to not only enhance the beer’s flavors but to also give it an intensely smooth and creamy mouthfeel. When you drink this you’ll taste vanilla, chocolate, coffee and the dark malts. Well balanced, very smooth, creamy with a thick feel.
Mark Brewer is a Tribune-Review contributing writer. He’s the author and illustrator of Brewology, An Illustrated Dictionary for Beer Lovers.